A Cup of Cold Water

by Calli Birch in ,

Scanning images on her iPhone, her face falls.

“What’s wrong, Mom?”

She swallows hard and looks up, eyes glassy. 

“I just realized how the Haiti pictures seem so out-of-place on my phone. They’re sandwiched between my client’s million-dollar house and my granddaughters at the Arboretum.”

She hands the phone off to me and takes a long sip of her coffee.

I quickly scroll through the pictures. The juxtaposition is indeed startling. 


This image …

... does not belong next to this one.

But then again, most people would think my mother never belonged in Haiti. It made sense for The Doctor. He was doing what he does best—doctoring—but what was The Designer doing there? That’s something she asked herself throughout the trip. 

It’s so easy to believe that we have nothing to offer, isn’t it?

Yet for us Christ-followers, “a cup of cold water” is worthy of reward and “caring for widows and orphans” is true religion.

My mother has always had a heart for humanitarian mission work; she has accompanied The Doctor all over Central and South America, even moving our family to Guatemala for a year when I was a teen. A few years ago, she partnered with a “marketplace ministry” that rescued trafficked women and supplied them with a profitable trade; she ultimately traveled to Africa and Thailand in support of that effort. My point here is this: poverty in the developing world, while always sobering, was nothing new for my mother. 

But I must admit, the raw emotion I saw when she handed me the phone that day, it had burst forth from a new spring of compassion—a spring that flooded her eyes and drowned the noise and excess to which she had returned. 


“Mom, what makes this trip so different?” I finally ask. “Clearly it’s different. I’ve never seen you like this.”

She holds her coffee mug in both hands while gathering her thoughts. Then takes another sip. 

“When we lived in Guatemala,” she lights up with the memory, “even the poorest of children could laugh and play, if encouraged.” Her eyes drop back to her hands. “It’s like some of these children have never seen or heard laughter.”

As she begins to recount stories from the trip, two things become clear: her burden for the people of Haiti and belief in Live Beyond’s mission. I can see her desire growing “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free.” (Isaiah 58:6)

Furthermore, my mother can’t help but be impressed with the operations side of Live Beyond. As a businesswoman, she quickly recognizes efficiency and resourceful strategy when she sees it. 

“Over the years, I’ve known many mission efforts,” she explains, “and while most are motivated by pure hearts and good intentions, they aren’t always well executed. In contrast, Live Beyond is a wonderfully-run organization that is making a real impact.”

And this is why she’s decided to partner with Live Beyond this Christmas and now encourages you to do the same. As you are planning your holiday giving, please consider their #GiveBeyond campaign. 

We all have something to offer, no matter how small.

Even Ellie, my five-year-old daughter, wants to help after seeing the pictures and hearing stories from her Papa Doc. She is giving two chickens to the children of Thomazeau, Haiti this Christmas. It’s her cup of cold water. 

What will be yours?

A Gathering Place (plus before & after pics!)

by Calli Birch in ,

Many unique qualities drew The Designer to this house—the outdoor spaces, the floor plan, the country setting, the trees, the view—but in my opinion, one room sealed the deal. 

Because it provided a Gathering Place. 


In The Designer’s words, nothing “jazzes” her more than having the whole family around her table, especially now that the miles between us prevent this from happening as often as she would like. Everyone has a place there. Yet as our family continued to grow, the dining room seemed to shrink. Yes, we fit, but with elbows in each other’s sides (hey, we’re a close-knit family)! 

So, when The Designer called me about this house last February, she immediately began describing what she had coined “the banquet room.” 

“It’s perfect,” she exclaimed, “exactly what your father and I have always envisioned!”

Both literally and figuratively, the heart of the home.

This room had all the elements of their long-envisioned “great hall” style dining room: a vaulted ceiling creating interesting angles, natural light pouring through tall windows, and a massive stone fireplace flanked by bookshelves. Yes! Yes! Yes!

The Designer just needed to make it hers, which is what she most loves to do—take an existing space bursting with potential and bring out its natural beauty. So, here is what she did.

She started at the top. Originally, horizontal beams stretched across the room dotted with pendant light fixtures. This design choice seemed to impede the space, breaking it up and preventing a wide, open feel. So she removed these beams and had new ones designed that ran along the ceiling, thus enhancing the room’s structure and giving it an old European vibe. 

A rustic “statement piece” chandelier now takes center stage, while recessed lighting and carefully arranged lamps eliminate the need for other light fixtures. 

Then she turned to the focal point. For years The Doctor has wanted a large stone fireplace, one that channels the rustic beauty of Southern France. This one definitely fit the bill, but it lacked that certain old world charm. 

As a remedy, The Designer ordered handmade doors to enclose the bookshelves. Peruvian artisans delicately layered paint and wax to create a heavily distressed patina finish on these custom pieces. Hand-forged iron hardware completes the look. 

And with a coordinating mantle also from Peru, the space now boasts plenty of charm.

Finally, she brought in the furniture. The dining table is from Century, which she paired with Maitland Smith chairs. Her smaller table from the previous home has been relocated to the kitchen, where it got a serious make-over (see previous post for details). 

The elder of the room, an antique French buffet, has been in the family for over fifteen years—yet for the first time, it feels perfectly at home in its surroundings. 

And for the finishing touch, a cozy conversation area in front of the fireplace, the perfect spot to enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of wine long after the dinner has come to an end.

I look around this room and think, yes, we can now fit—brides, babies, dogs, and all. And in about a month, as the family gathers to give thanks, we’ll be able to try it out for the first time. 

Better Than Dark Chocolate

by Calli Birch in , ,

For The Designer, every home remodel has offered her the opportunity to experiment with new design trends and techniques. But of all the remodels I can remember, this one has been her most adventurous. 

Today we’re going to share a very unique design element of her new home.


Custom Painting.


It all started with a recent trip to Europe. I remember flipping through The Designer’s camera after they returned and noticing that half the pictures were of ceilings. Painting ceilings, beamed ceilings, mosaic ceilings.

As I looked at those pictures, she pointed out a few of her favorites and said, “I’m doing that in our next house.”

And that’s exactly what she did.

Enter Debra Warr. The Designer knew Debra from Abilene, and she was thrilled to discover that Debra too had relocated to the Metroplex. Debra is the owner of Imagination ii, a creative studio for the production of fine art & murals, specialty paint techniques including faux bois, faux marble, pietra serena, stone & brick, alligator & leather, venetian plaster, textured paints, metallic finishes & gold leaf, distressed furniture and glazed cabinetry finishes for residential and commercial clients. (Whew, that’s a mouthful!)

The very first project was to “antique” the white pressed-tin tiles in the library. 

After that, she created a mural on the entry ceiling.

Soon afterwards, The Designer decided to transform a small closet under the stairway into a wine room. But she needed something special to make it pop. So Debra created “tile” on the walls. Looks amazing, doesn’t it?

At this point, The Designer realized that Debra could do practically anything.


So in The Designer's words: she got addicted.

"Custom painting is even better than dark chocolate!"


Because the house sits high on a hill, surrounded by wonderful shade trees, it only made sense to paint a mural of a tree. Right? This is what Debra came up with for the kitchen (The Designer added the majolica plate "leaves" as a finishing touch).  

Debra also painted this table top. If you recall, Mom had a little incident with candles in custard cups a while back.

For the grand finale, The Designer commissioned Debra to recreate a favorite wallpaper pattern that has been discontinued (as a side note: Mom has always loved wallpaper, and she’s so excited that it’s coming back!) Debra designed a custom stencil to mimic the pattern, and then used her airbrush techniques for this brilliant result!

Gorgeous, isn't it?

Although the house is almost finished, I'm not sure that Mom has satiated her little addiction ... she's already talking about painting a patio. When you start thinking about all that could be accomplished with talent like this, the possibilities are endless. 

So, have you ever experimented with custom painting? We would love to hear details in the comments below!

Welcome Back!

by Calli Birch in , ,

So, it’s been while.

Our sweet little blog got put on the back burner this summer. 

Don’t blame me; I’m just the writer. The transcriber, really. I’m blaming it all on The Designer. 

I’ve begged, pleaded, bribed, and even trapped her in a car trying to elicit creative ideas … but the truth is, The Designer has been completely preoccupied, all her creativity channelled into one specific project. 


And here—finally—is the big reveal:

The Doctor & The Designer have moved!


Don’t worry, they didn’t leave Texas (or even Southlake/Keller), but they did change addresses. They discovered the perfect makeover house back in February, bought it, gutted it, remodeled it, and then moved in last month.

I’ve been dying to do a before-after reveal, but the simple fact is … it’s not entirely finished. Hence, the blog stagnation.

But this house! It has beautiful outdoor spaces and a sprawling, heavily treed yard. I’m sitting on one of the porches right now, enjoying a glass of wine with The Designer and watching my girls play. 

The sunsets are stunning on top of this hill, and even though it’s part of a small neighborhood, it backs up to the countryside, surrounded by horse pastures. The Doc is a country boy at heart, so he’s at home here. 

As The Designer puts her finishing touches on this—their seventh major home remodel—I can see the wisdom of the move. She finally found the perfect space for our family.

A space that blends rustic & elegant, rural & city, natural & refined, old & new—his & hers.


Even though the entire house isn’t yet completed, we’ve decided to feature a few individual spaces over the coming weeks. 

So, welcome back! We’re still here, and we’d love to catch up soon :-)